He Bravely Pursues the Flying Midianites (series: Lessons on Judges)
by John Lowe
He Bravely Pursues the Flying Midianites Judges 8.10-12
10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their army, about fifteen thousand men, all who were left of all the army of the people of the East; for there had fallen a hundred and twenty thousand men who drew the sword.
11 And Gideon went up by the caravan route east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the army; for the army was off its guard.
12 And Zebah and Zalmunna fled; and he pursued them and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and he threw all the army into a panic.
10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with their army, about fifteen thousand men, all who were left of all the army of the people of the East; for there had fallen a hundred and twenty thousand men who drew the sword.--Judges 8:10 (KJV)
10 Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor with an army of about 15,000 men. This was all that was left of Kedem's entire army. In the battle, 120,000 soldiers died.--Judges 8:10 (GW)
Gideon, as a valiant general, was pursuing the remaining Midianites, after the original blow took the lives of 120,000 men. Such a terrible death toll was the result of fighting among themselves. But, it seems, the two kings of Midian, having a strong force of personal guards escaped with 15,000 men before the passes could be secured by the Ephraimites, and made towards their own country; but they stopped to rest at Karkor.
Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in 1Karkor…Jerome says, there was at this time a castle called Carcuria, a day's journey from Petra, which was in the metropolis of Idumea; but whether that is where Zebah and Zalmunna had taken refuge is not clear. A place called Karkor is not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture. Some contend that karkor means soft, even ground, while others say its name means rest; and that is how the Vulgate understood it: Zebah and Zalmunna rested, with all their army. And this seems to be the correct interpretation, for it says in Judges 8:11, that Gideon smote the host, for the host was secure (believed they were safe). The RSV supports this meaning, "For the army was off its guard." They were caught off-guard because they were overconfident. The two kings with their fifteen thousand men had fled far enough east of the Jordan that they fancied themselves to be entirely beyond the reach of the Israelites, and for that reason had not even bothered to post a watch. The last five words of these three verses should actually be placed immediately after the words, "And the host was secure," and he threw all the army into a panic. Of course, the utter panic of the army preceded the flight and capture of the two kings.
With their army, about fifteen thousand men, Gideon and his three hundred men were outnumbered by the 15,000 men Midianite host, not to mention their camels, arms and experience; and yet, as faint and weary as they were, they closely pursued them, attacked and conquered them. Josephus very wrongly states the size of the enemy to be about 18,000.
All who were left of all the army of the people of the East ...the Arabians and the Amalekites joined the Midianites in this expedition; and perhaps what remained of the army chiefly consisted of Arabians, the others died in the valley of Jezreel, and at the fords of the Jordan.
for there had fallen a hundred and twenty thousand men who drew the sword ...it is reasonable to suppose that the number includes the wounded, prisoners (if any were spared) women and children; so that this host originally consisted of 135,000 fighting men.
__________________verse 10 notes___________________
1Karkor--A town on the eastern confines of Gad. The wreck of the Midianite army halted there.
11 And Gideon went up by the caravan route east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and attacked the army; for the army was off its guard.-- Judges 8.11 (KJV)
11 So Gideon went up Tent Dwellers Road, east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and defeated the unsuspecting Midianite army.--Judges 8.11 (GW)
And Gideon went up by the caravan route ...that is, he took his 300 weary men down the same road that the Arabians and Kedarenes traveled with their flocks; nomads, who dwelt in tents for the sake of caring for their flocks. As the Targum and Jarchi put it; he did not pursue them by the main road, but went in a roundabout way, where these people dwelt in tents, so that he might surprise the soldiers of the kings of Midian, who were unaware of their movements; and he came upon them east of Nobah and Jogbehah.
Gideon went up by the way of them that dwelt in tents on the east--He tracked the fugitives across the mountain range of Gilead to the northeast of the 2Jabbok, and there he came upon them unexpectedly while they were resting securely among their own nomadic tribes. Jogbehah is supposed to be Ramoth-gilead; and, therefore, the Midianites must have found refuge at or near Abela, "Abel-cheramim," is probably "the plain of the vineyards."
The men of Midian would be hard-pressed to go back into Canaan for any reason because now they feared Gideon’s God; since they must have figured out by now that the annihilation of the entire host of Midian was the work of Jehovah. But they felt safe and secure now: They successfully crossed the Jordan, and now they thought they were a great way from the place of battle; and probably, at this point, Gideon’s men were bone-weary and hungry. They would have neither the strength nor the will to pursue them so far. But Gideon took the same road that the Arabians took as they tended their sheep. No one expected them to take this road which went through the wilderness where the Arabians dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah.
East of Nobah and Jogbehah. The first was in the tribe of Manasseh, and the latter in the tribe of Gad, and both it seems were on the borders of those tribes; see 3(Numbers 32:35,42); the Targum calls the latter Ramatha; both words have the implication of height in them; this city was probably built on a hill. According to Bunting, Penuel was two miles from Succoth, Nobah two miles from Penuel, and Jogbehah four miles from Nobah and Karkor four miles from Jogbehah.
And attacked the army; for the army was off its guard. Having got over the Jordan, and since it was now nighttime, they most likely thought they were safe from Gideon's attack. After all, who would have thought that they would catch up with them so soon, on foot, weary, and fatigued? They apparently assumed they were safe at this unknown desert hideout.
Gideon continues to make bold moves and to do the unexpected because he has faith in God’s promise to save Israel through him and the 300 Israelites. So why does he believe that God would bless this venture of faith? He believes it because he had seen the Lord do good things already. God's past blessing was a promise of future blessing to Gideon.
His success was very encouraging to him and his men, and the next verse says that he routed the army, and took the two kings prisoner.
___________________verse 11 notes____________________
2(Jabbok) (emptying), a stream which intersects the mountain range of Gilead, comp. Josh. 12:2, 5, and falls into the Jordan on the east about midway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. It was anciently the border of the children of Ammon. Num. 21:24; Deut. 2:37; 3:16. It was on the south bank of the Jabbok that the interview took place between Jacob and Esau, Gen. 32:22; and this river afterward became, toward its western part, the boundary between the kingdoms of Sihon and Og. Josh. 12:2, 5. Its modern name is Wady Zurka.
3(Numbers 32:35, 42) “Atroth-shophan, Jazer, Jogbehah ...And Nobah went and took Kenath and its villages, and called it Nobah, after his own name.12 And Zebah and Zalmunna fled; and he pursued them and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah, and Zalmunna, and he threw all the army into a panic.-- Judges 8.12 (KJV)
12 Zebah and Zalmunna fled as Gideon pursued them. He captured King Zebah and King Zalmunna of Midian, and the whole Midianite army panicked.--Judges 8.12 (GW)
And when Zebah and Zalmunna fled ...their horde being afflicted, and thrown into confusion by the sudden approach of Gideon's army; who probably attacked them similar to how the first attack was carried out, blowing their trumpets, and calling out the sword of the Lord and of Gideon; which were such terrifying sounds to them, that they fled at once, and he pursued them and took the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and he threw all the army into a panic. The Israelites attacked from a way they did not expect. The enemy soldiers were terrified once again because the first attack was still fresh in their minds; so they fled some one way and some another, and the kings were left alone to be easily taken. This was the third conflict.
Gideon was a man of persistence; at this point, he had pursued the enemy for a distance of 150 miles.
Note: the fear of the wicked shall come upon him. Those that think to run from the sword of the Lord and of Gideon do but run upon it. If he flee from the iron weapon, yet the bow of steel shall strike him through; for evil pursueth sinners.